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What Is a Fasting Mimicking Diet?

I’ll be posting a series of helpful nutrition and lifestyle tips that can help prevent medical problems and add to vitality and good health. I’d like to start this series with recommending periodic fasting or a fasting mimicking diet. Today I am starting a fasting mimicking diet (FMD) named Prolon. What would motivate me to do this and what benefits does this have?

 What Is Fasting?

What is fasting?  Fasting is purposely abstaining from all food or certain foods for a period of time. Most of us fast daily while we sleep so our first meal is called breakfast, break the fast. There are many types of fasting and different duration of fasts. I’m not discussing daily intermittent fasting which is something I do practice. Today I’m referring to abstaining from food for several days. Why do such a thing? Some do so for religious purposes, some for a cleanse, some to lose weight, and some for the health benefit.

What Are the Health Benefits of Fasting?

Fasting can have varying health benefits including helping diabetes (1), cardiovascular disease, cancers and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and stroke. (2). Fasting can also improve stem cell function (3). This is important information as this can help our patients receiving regenerative therapies for orthopedic injuries.

Can You Do a Fasting Mimicking Diet?

For me, the thought of not eating for a day sounds horrible as I love eating!  But what if I could get the benefit of fasting and still eat some. According to research a fasting mimicking diet, (FMD), where you just restrict certain foods, can do just that  (4) and (5).  This is a diet in which you are allowed to eat some foods but still have the same health benefits of fasting. There is a commercial product called Prolon that is a 5 day FMD. We like this product so much we have it available at our clinic to offer patients. This sounded perfect for me as it is convenient, I can eat some, and still have the fasting benefits. This week will be my third time doing this 5 day FMD. The first time I did it, I was surprised that I wasn’t starving. Though it was mentally challenging, it was not as difficult as I expected. Also, physically I still felt good energy and was even able to work out mild to moderate intensity for 20-30 min a day. However, in general, strenuous exercise is not recommended.

My Experience with FMD (Fasting Mimicking Diet)

After performing FMD I realized several things about my typical eating patterns:

1. Many times I’m eating out of comfort instead of true hunger. I just like eating and it can make me feel better if stressed or bored.

2. Sometimes I’m just eating because the opportunity is there. As a doctor during training we are working or studying up to 100 hrs a week so we learn to eat, sleep and go to the bathroom whenever we can because those times are rare.

3. Sometimes when I thought I was hungry, I was really just thirsty and drinking water would quench my hunger in most cases. Especially living here in Colorado where it is dry and at high altitude.

4. I definitely eat more than I need to as evidenced by having plenty of energy, and able to work full time and even exercise a little without excess fatigue while on the FMD.

Why do I want to do this FMD now? I now have a 1 year old boy. As anyone with children knows, your life and priorities change dramatically after having a baby. I still try to eat well and exercise, but I am certainly not exercising as much as I am used to. Less time for exercise and and my love of food has resulted in an extra pound or 2 to spare.

Doing this diet will be a good reset to cleanse and remind myself to only eat when really hungry. This time I even recruited my wife to join in for moral support! This is great because the last 2 times I did this she was pregnant or breastfeeding and couldn’t fast. Instead she was eating my favorite foods in my face! Where’s the support?! I will try to do a short fast 4 times a year, but you can do this up to a monthly basis if you need to make more dramatic lifestyle changes. Always consult your physician before fasting if you have any medical conditions. Fasting should not be done as a primary weight-loss solution.

Other Types of Fasts

· No-calorie fast: A 24–72 hour fast with only water or unsweetened herbal tea. After the fast reintroduce fruits and vegetables only the first day.

· Juice fast: Drink only fresh-squeezed orange juice, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, and bottled or filtered water for two days. Day 3–5 add fresh fruits and vegetables and tea with honey. Day 6–7 reintroduce nuts, eggs, and other foods, but not meat or dairy. Day 8 reintroduce fish if you choose. Day 14 and beyond, you can slowly reintroduce anything else.

· Alternate juice fast: Using a juicer, only drink fresh fruit and vegetable juices 3–5 times daily for 3–10 days.

· Lemon drink and saltwater fast: In the morning when you wake up, drink 2 teaspoons of salt in warm water. The rest of the day make a lemon drink: 4–5 fresh-squeezed lemons with ¾ cup of grade-B maple syrup in 64 ounces of water. You may add in a tablespoon of cayenne to the drink if you can tolerate it. Drink it throughout the day along with water. At night drink a laxative tea. Follow for 3–7 days. After the fast, reintroduce only fruits and vegetables the first day.

After any fast, slowly reintroduce regular foods, starting with light foods such as fruit, soups, light vegetables and small portions of whole grains first. Do not immediately binge after a fast, keep the first meals small. Be sure you do not do any strenuous activity or have many responsibilities during a fast as your energy level may be low or you may feel groggy as you detoxify and have a reduced calorie intake. Happy cleansing.

The Bottom Line…

I recommend some type of periodic fasting such as a fasting mimicking diet every 1-3 months. This can help maintain weight and help fight off some chronic diseases. Its always good to recruit a spouse, family member or friend to join you so you have support and you’ll be helping someone else out as well.

1. Health Benefits of Fasting and Caloric Restriction. Golbidi S, Daiber A, Korac B, Li H, Essop MF, Laher I. Curr Diab Rep. 2017 Oct 23;17(12):123. doi: 10.1007/s11892-017-0951-7. Review. PMID: 29063418  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29063418

2. Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes. Mattson MP, Longo VD, Harvie M. Ageing Res Rev. 2017 Oct;39:46-58. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2016.10.005. Epub 2016 Oct 31. Review. PMID: 278104 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27810402

3. Dietary Regulation of Adult Stem Cells. Mana MD, Kuo EY, Yilmaz ÖH. Curr Stem Cell Rep. 2017 Mar;3(1):1-8. doi: 10.1007/s40778-017-0072-x. Epub 2017 Feb 8. PMID: 28966904  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28966904

4. A Periodic Diet that Mimics Fasting Promotes Multi-System Regeneration, Enhanced Cognitive Performance, and Healthspan. Brandhorst S, Choi IY, Wei M, Cheng CW, Sedrakyan S, Navarrete G, Dubeau L, Yap LP, Park R, Vinciguerra M, Di Biase S, Mirzaei H, Mirisola MG, Childress P, Ji L, Groshen S, Penna F, Odetti P, Perin L, Conti PS, Ikeno Y, Kennedy BK, Cohen P, Morgan TE, Dorff TB, Longo VD.
Cell Metab. 2015 Jul 7;22(1):86-99. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2015.05.012. Epub 2015 Jun 18. PMID: 26094889 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26094889

5. Fasting-mimicking diet and markers/risk factors for aging, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Wei M, Brandhorst S, Shelehchi M, Mirzaei H, Cheng CW, Budniak J, Groshen S, Mack WJ, Guen E, Di Biase S, Cohen P, Morgan TE, Dorff T, Hong K, Michalsen A, Laviano A, Longo VD. Sci Transl Med. 2017 Feb 15;9(377). pii: eaai8700. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aai8700. PMID: 28202779  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28202779